Fifteen-year-old Megumi Shimizu dreamed of a glamorous life in the big city; however, her unexpected death in the quiet village of Sotoba marks the beginning of what appears to be a ferocious epidemic that turns the hot summer into a season of blood and terror. A young doctor named Toshio Ozaki begins to doubt the nature of the disease and comes to understand that to discover the truth, he must abandon his humanity. Meanwhile, Natsuno Yuuki, an antisocial youth from the city, is haunted by the sudden death of Megumi and must realize the pain of friendship in the face of his own tragedy. Toshio and Natsuno form an unlikely pair as they work together to save Sotoba before it transforms into a ghost town of vampires.
Shiki, adapted from the horror novel written by Fuyumi Ono, goes beyond the average vampire story. It tells the tragic tale of survival in a world where one cannot easily distinguish between good and evil. Abandoned by God, the Shiki, as the vampires call themselves, have only their will to live as they clash with the fear of the paranoid/unbelieving villagers. Shiki explores the boundary that separates man from monster.
Vampires have been enjoying quite a renaissance in Western media lately, mainly because of the advent of Twilight. In anime however, tales of bloodsuckers have been pretty constant over the years, but like the West there has been an increase in the number of stories involving the children of the night. The only problem is, they all seem to romanticise vampires by giving them kind, gentle personalities, good looks, a reluctance to drink human blood, or some other hook to make the viewer believe that creatures who look on humans as food can be considered friendly.
And then Shiki comes along and blows that whole idea out of the water.
Originally a two part horror novel published in 1998 by Ono Fuyumi (which was later reprinted in five parts), Shiki was adapted for manga in 2007 by Fujisaki Ryu. Set during a summertime in the mid 1990s, several people in the small town of Sotoba in rural Japan are afflicted with a strange and incurable wasting disease, and the local doctor fears an epidemic may be starting.
Around the same time a new family moves into the newly built Kanemasa mansion .
Shiki may not look the part at first glance, especially because of the colour scheme, but don't be fooled as there is actually quite a deep plot to this series, and while there is a degree of predictability about the storyline, this is balanced some good scripting and a more reasoned narrative approach. One of the things that separates this anime from more recent offerings is that it harks back to older vampire tales, so unlike Fortune Arterial, Rosario + Vampire, and other titles of that ilk, the undead in Shiki are unable to venture out into sunlight, nor are they able to enter a home unless invited, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
In addition to this there's an intelligence about the story that materialises in some interesting ways, from the doctor's logical approach to the town's crisis, to the strangely normal reactions of the local women at the beginning of the penultimate episode. Shiki could readily be compared to Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni as it explores certain aspects of human psychosis over the course of the series, and it's pleasing to watch an anime that doesn't assume that the audience are blithering idiots.
The thing that may put people off though, is how everything looks. The town and rural scenery are nicely detailed and varied, but viewers may initially wonder at the incongruity of the bright colours, or even the European styled mansion sitting on a hill overlooking the town. Rather than a whimsical approach to the design, this is a purposeful nod at the stereotypical hilltop "castle" that is prominent in a number of European horror stories.
This slightly methodical approach to design also manifests itself with the characters as it seems as though there has been an attempt to include just about every body shape into the series. Now while this adds a nice touch of diversity, there are some rather ludicrous additions which seem a bit out of place in a rural setting (one example is Ookawa Tomio, the owner of the liquor store, who looks like he was built in a shipyard). That said, the one glaring issue is that the vampires are easily recognisable because of their eyes, which is a bit of a shame as there are several scenes where the effect would have been heightened if there was less of a difference between the undead and humans.
As for the animation, the production company Daume isn't really well known in the West, but the work they've put into Shiki bodes well for the future of the studio. The characters generally move well, and while there are some slightly ridiculous body positions and actions at times, there's also a bit more realism about the series since none of the undead can leap over buildings or fly through the air. The action sequences also benefit from this more realistic approach, but there are still a small number of scenes that "bend" the laws of physics at the very least.
One thing that does bear mentioning is the quality and impact of the visual effects, especially the colour scheme, partly because of the variety, but mainly because they provide a number of scenes with some much needed emphasis.
Speaking of which, Shiki features some pretty decent acting, and a number of seiyuu really do put effort into their roles, even if they only have a minor speaking part. Now one could argue that this is to be expected from professionals, but sadly this isn't always the case as there are many anime out there that simply haven't understood that a poorly executed supporting role can spoil the performance of the leads.
The downside is that there are times towards the end of the series where the actors and actresses seem ... a bit too enthusiastic. Fortunately the seiyuu playing the main roles are there to steady things, and their performances are very good indeed.
Shiki is well served by a variety of incidental music, ranging from quiet yet slightly ominous music box pieces to haunting choral anthems, all with some slow techno beats thrown into the mix to round everything out. The series has two opening and ending sequences that, in all honesty, are a bit of a mixed bag. The first OP, Kuchizuke by Buck-Tick, is a pretty angry piece that actually fits well with the theme of the show, but sadly the second OP, Calendula Requiem by Kanon x Kanon, doesn't really work as it's a bit too J-pop for its own good. As for the EDs, the first one, Walk no Yakusoku by Nangi, is a slightly bittersweet track that echoes of triumph, and in all honesty it's difficult to judge how fitting the song is with this anime. On the other hand the second ED, Gekka Reijin by Buck-Tick (again), really does work well with Shiki, and the track is reminiscent of the music produced by some of the "darker" European rock/pop bands of the 1990s.
As for the effects, they're suitably gory when the occasion demands, but even poor effects would be raised by the quality of the choreography throughout this series. Everything from the music, including the OPs and EDs, to the pitch and cadence of the speaking roles, is timed very well, and it's clear a great deal of effort has gone into making this anime an aural experience as well as a visual one.
Now one of the things that is clear from the opening sequence is that Shiki has quite a large number of characters. Normally this would mean that much of the developmental aspect of the storyline would focus on the leads, with the supporting characters reinforcing this growth, but Shiki takes a different line, and it's one that will hopefully be seen a lot more in the future. The main strength of this series is characterisation, and from the bit parts on up, every single role is clearly defined. The advantage to this method is that it's not always necessary to develop a well defined character, and Shiki follows this path almost religiously. While some growth does occur over the course of the series, what's most interesting is how each character adjusts and adapts to the events in the town. Probably the best example of this ethos in action is in the latter half of episode 14, and the methodical approach taken by the local doctor Ozaki Toshio is reflective of the fact that there is a degree of logic and intelligence in the plot.
In all honesty Shiki managed to surprise me. After the recent run of poor horror anime it's pretty obvious that I ventured into the series half expecting more of the same, so when I encountered actual intelligence in the plot, it came as something of a shock. That doesn't mean this anime is perfect though, as aside from the more obvious audio and visual flaws (like not washing off blood), there are several elements in the story that could have been resolved. That said, it's nice to watch a show that sets out to tell a story without assuming that the viewer is afflicted with the moe bug.
The main reason I like Shiki though, is because it doesn't fall foul of the drivel produced by authors of "dark romance", but instead postulates some moral and ethical dilemmas for the viewer to ponder. In addition to this it also highlights the human capacity for adaptation, something which is often overlooked in anime. If you're looking for an intelligent horror, then this series is right up there with the likes of Ghost Hound, Ghost Hunt, and other equally worthy shows.
Given that this is effectively a throwback to the type of horror that epitomises Bram Stoker's Dracula (without certain supernatural shenanigans), Shiki is something of an oddity in anime as the general trend leans heavily into romanticism and moe, and in all honesty I haven't seen a vampire tale this good since Kurozuka, which says a lot more about the anime industry than I can put into words.read more
I've seen my fair share of vampire anime; and I have to say, it was under vast number of genres, as well as themes. Shiki however, pulls you back in to what the traditional myth of vampires; added to it that it's a thriller, it will move anyone who's a vampire fan.
Compared to many other vampire themed animes, such as Blood+, Rosario + Vampire, Vampire Knight, and Trinity blood; this anime comes back to the roots of vampires and their myths. In this anime a town is plagued with death with no reasonable explanation; though thought of a possible epidemic, Doctor Ozaki, the head doctor of his clinic cannot find any actual symptoms related to any known disease, besides Aplastic Anemia, which is the loss of red and white blood cells. As the body count rises, he becomes desperate to find an answer until he comes up to a conclusion, albeit a far fetched one, that it might be a work of Okiagari, or vampires. His next problem then is to convince the village; of course such a mythical conclusion would "never" exist in the rational world. As he tried desperately to prove the existence of okiagari, death sweeps through the town faster and faster, until soon, more than half of the population has been wiped. Still they did not believe him. That is until he killed a vampire, named Chizuru, in front of everyone. Then the vampire hunt begins. There are mini plots within the whole series that I will not divulge, go watch it to see. At first, the anime's plot progression might come up as slow to most people. Even I had a hard time dealing with the first 3 episodes. But it get's really good. The fact that the anime went back to the original vampire myths alone made me smile, such as that they can not enter a home until they are invited in, or that they die if stabbed with a stake at the heart, and the fact that they are UNDEAD; just including those classic myths already got me hooked. This anime has definitely gave back the respect of vampires that Twilight has taken away. And contrast to the other animes I've mentioned, very little gore is shown, at least until the way later episodes, even then, it was there as part of the ambiance, and not for its own sake.
The lines were sharp, and the colors were almost fluorescent. The art of the animation just didn't look like it fits with a subtle setting and plot like that. Not to mention the crazy hairstyles that almost every relevant character had. It was like watching bakemonogatari but with better details. The animation would be more fit for shounen anime in my opinion.
The1st season OP got me the first time I heard it. It was almost celtic, and goes perfectly with the whole theme. The BGM, it was not intrusive, but yet it'll make you want to jump at times; some even sound like something out of the catholic church, which is awesome due to the ties of religion to vampires;the good thing about it is that they also barely use BGM. The 2nd season OP for some reason reminded me of one of the OP's of Rozen Maiden, i don't know why, but I didn't like it as much. The 1st season ED is that like something off a romance anime though, but once you get to the later episodes, you will figure out why. The 2nd season ED I liked because it was indie/soft rock for me, and it was calm yet eerie, which what the anime was about.
There were really only 4 main characters in the anime; Sunako, Ozaki, Seishin, and Yuuki. However, you will definitely be able to tell that EVERYONE is important, even the ones who died, or risen. This is because of the sub-plots, as I mentioned earlier, and they are awesome. However as much as that's a good thing, the downside is that no one really has any room to grow. The viewer really can't see if there is any character progression. However, that really isn't necessary due to the big-picture nature of the plot.
Like I said in the Story section, it is at first slow, but as the people die, and the vamipres close in to the main characters, it becomes a classic thriller. At one point I actually jumped off my seat. This take on the classic vampire is really something that needed to be done.
Basically, if you hate twilight, you would love this. It puts back the vampire's reputation of being mysterious, scary, and are considered "monsters". It went back to the classics of vampire myths, and made it work quite well. I really do hope that this anime becomes a classic; in case everyone needs to refresh that vampire actually DIE under the sun, and not sparkle like a disco ball.
"Who's the real evil?" Who cares? It seemed pretty black and white to me logically. (Personally: If you're dead, stay dead.) I didn't feel any sympathy for either side. So I didn't end up contemplating life. Also I already knew humans are terrible. I guess a reminder didn't hurt? (Concept was good enough for bonus points in story rating. But, mainly, the endless blood showers ♥)
I still remember when my brain just said, "Deal with it, it's episode 17 already." The drawing style is unique but I didn't find it beautiful, it was bizarre. I guess it suits how messed up the anime is but it doesn't change things for me; didn't like it. Bonus points: Managed to live with it.
I actually liked the music and anything sound related, it was the one thing I couldn't complain about. It wasn't painfully out of place or too weird.
Oh wow. In one word, UNLIKEABLE. Most of them were painfully annoying or despicable. Even the kind ones were annoying to me, like that best friend guy that kept crying. I can't explain without spoilers but ask yourself, "Is it worth ruining my day for?" Not really. "Why do that?!" or "Just do it!!" moments are too many a person should ever experience in a single series.
I managed to sit through 24 episodes overall so it's compelling in its own way. Who's gonna die next?? Is everyone a piece of *** or will they actually grow as characters?? Tbh, it actually took me a few episodes to understand what was going on so there's some major potential this could have been shorter than it was.
100% would not rewatch. 6 is actually generous but I base my ratings on concept potential usually. Don't get me wrong, it was compelling enough to keep me interested, BUT, it was compelling in a bad way. I kept watching to see if anyone of those fudgers actually pulls through for me.
Conclusion: If you like messed up stuff, this could be for you.
Everyone's review seems to be raving about how good Shiki is and so I'm just wondering maybe there is something wrong with me. (Well, there must be if I managed to get through this bloody anime without losing my appetite but that's another issue.) Why did I bother to write this you may ask?? I think it might be nice for other people to have some closure that they're not abnormal for not raving about it and that it's not for everyone, I'm like Batman of the anime world. Thanks for reading.read more
Something strange has been going on in the quaint village of Sotoba... Ever since those wealthy outsiders built their lavish mansion at the top of Kanemasa Hill, there has been a succession of mysterious deaths... People of all ages will become lethargic and anti-social, refuse to go to the doctor, and then die after only a few days... Could it be an epidemic? Some new disease? And are the rumors true that the dead are still walking around?
Those newcomers are certainly strange, and Sotoba does have ancient legends about Okomiyagi, or the dead coming back to life... But those are just stories, right?
Based on a series of novels from 1998, Shiki tells the story of an entire rural Japanese community as it deals with one mysterious death after another, slowly whittling their population down as their efforts to explain it... And hopefully put a stop to it... yield no results, no answers, and an ever diminishing sense of hope. It isn’t until a few open-minded individuals start to consider the supernatural that they finally begin to make some real progress... Unfortunately for them, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
With a cast of hundreds like this show has, it’s essential that you set aside a special handful of characters for the audience to follow, so we can explore the story from several different perspectives. Shiki has this requirement covered, as it gives us three very different pairs of eyes to look through. First, we have Natsuno, a disgruntled teenaged boy who’s been forced to move into this village with his new wave, idealistic parents. He despises the village, and refuses to make any long term connections, believing that doing so will make it difficult when they finally move back out. Of course, despite his best efforts, a close circle of friends do form around him. In fact, Megumi... One of the very first people to be killed by the mysterious epidemic... Had an obsessive one sided crush on him... and it seems that even death can’t take her away.
Our second leading role is Toshio Ozaki, the director of the primary hospital in Sotoba. Having taken over the clinic from his deceased father, he’s a driven and tenacious doctor who’s initially baffled by the amount of people inexplicably dying around him, and having come up against a challenge like this, he will stop at nothing to overcome it... And I mean nothing, as his quest for a solution leads to him experiencing and performing some of the cruelest acts imaginable.
And our final lead is Ozaki’s childhood friend, Seishin Muroi, a local priest and a moderately successful author. His novels tend to be on the poignant side, dealing with subjects like loss, betrayal, and abandonment by God. This attracts the attention of Sunako, the little daughter of the newcomers, who’s apparently a huge fan of his work. He forms a connection with her over time, as his pacifist religious beliefs gradually lead him to develop a sense of sympathy for the beings that his best friend Toshio has sworn to destroy.
The rest of the cast is made up of smaller roles, the basic types of people you’d expect to see in a tightly-knit little community... You have business owners, rebellious teenagers, concerned parents, comfortable elders, nurses, teachers, happy go lucky children... All of whom deal with the growing problem in their own unique ways. And for such a large cast, the dub is surprisingly on point. It”s a Funimation effort, but it’s a really odd Funimation effort, where the lead characters are all portrayed by actors that you normally wouldn’t see attached to such high profile roles. Toshio is played by David Wald, a long time actor who’s somehow stayed completely off of my radar until just now. I’m going to have to keep an eye out for him in the future, because he rasps and grumbles his way into the jaded, chain smoking doctor as though he was born to play the part.
Seishin Muroi is played by John Burgmeier, a man who rarely ever steps out from the technical side fo a dub for anything other than a bit part... He directs, he writes, but when he acts, his subdued performances are normally outstanding. He plays down-trod, broken men as though it were a second language, and his role in Shiki is probably one of his best voice performances since Gunslinger Girl. Jerry Jewell also does a commendable job on Natsuno Yuuki, and you’ll find pretty much every Funimation voice under the sun sprinkled here and there... Hell, even Anastasia Munoz gets an appearance... but the star of this dub has to be Cherami Leigh, who plays the ominous Sunako, who looks very much like she was taken directly from a Katy Towell cartoon. I wish I could tell you why her performance in this role is so perfect, but to go into detail would mean giving away some serious spoilers.
There’s at least one bad egg in the dub, however, and surprise surprise, it’s Tia Ballard. Tia plays the role of Megumi Shimizu, a sixteen year old girl who dreams of getting out of her quaint, suffocating home town and going to a college in the big city. And she will not shut up about it. I know that in anime, non conformists are often portrayed as loud, disruptive nuisances, and they did a very thorough job of it with this character, but when you combine that archetype with tia’s shrill, screechy voice, she single-handedly renders the first episode almost completely unbearable. Thankfully, she only really has a strong presence in this episode. Spoiler... She dies in it.
Now, when I tell you that this story is about a small group of protagonists struggling to put a stop to the mysterious deaths happening all around them, with ticking clock being their worst enemy, you may think that concept sounds suspiciously familiar. Well, that’s because you’ve seen this same plot before, as Another and Hell Girl: Two Mirrors have both tried... And failed miserably... at making you care about it. But where those two regrettable shows failed, Shiki succeeds with flying colors.
Unlike Another, Shiki doesn’t make over-the-top, ridiculous spectacles of it’s death scenes, choosing instead to focus on word of mouth and the sad faces of relatives, so that it can liberally float between tragedy and statistic depending on the tone that any given death calls for. And unlike Hell Girl Two Mirrors, Shiki paces itself, putting just enough time between each death so that it can drain the hope of the viewer, little by little, as it spirals down towards one hell of a catastrophic ending.
And with that manipulation of hope, Shiki is one of the most well executed horror anime titles that I have seen in a long time. There’s almost no filler in it’s entire 24 episode run, as every single event that occurs has a distinct purpose, and is placed exactly where it needs to be in the narrative. The first ten or so episodes are admittedly slow, building up the tension in the village to an almost OCD-like degree. Very few answers are found here, as tragic death after tragic death drives the residents to either blind paranoia or complacent acceptance of fate. By the second half, the nature of this menace has been all but revealed to the audience, even as our three main characters slowly come to terms with a truth they know they shouldn’t accept, and with a terrifying threat that comes to face them almost immediately after they come to face it.
It’s a brilliant, gripping story that will have you skipping through the otherwise beautiful openings and closings just so you can catch the next development as quickly as you possibly can. While you may find yourself hard-pressed to experience any emotional reactions through the majority of the story, as death will inevitably become commonplace in this kind of story, there’s enough disturbing, unsettling material in the final act that will not only horrify you, but will also completely subvert your expectations of a horror story.
As much as I would love to continue to praise this series, and call it one of the most excellent horror titles i’ve ever seen, I can’t. It’s time to talk about the artwork and animation, and I can already feel my hand reaching out to grab hold of my bottle of Haterade. Why? Because this is one butt ugly show.
Okay,. maybe that’s not fair of me... It’s not the artwork itself that’s bad, as it doesn’t look sloppy or anything. If anything, the backgrounds and environments are easily on the high end of the scale. No, what I really have problems with is the art design. The characters look ridiculous, with angular faces and giant, cartoony eyes, and so many bizarre, gravity defying hairstyles that even a Pokemon animator would say “Hey, dial it back a bit!” No, you know what? Forget Pokemon. Looking at Shiki’s character designs is like watching someone from Clamp come up with their own Yugioh Spin-off. It would be okay if this were some wacky comedy, but it’s not... Shiki is a mature, poignant show that asks you several profound questions and dares you to come up with your own satisfactory answers.
And if you really want to see this show go from ridiculous to horrifying in the blink of an eye, just wait until one of the characters starts to cry. These characters don’t cry the way normal anime characters cry... They cry thick, opaque marbles of liquid that could make a serious claim at being one of the scariest elements of the show. If you were to take a frame of it out of context, you’d think you were looking at an image from some ill advised Eiken sequel... And no, I am not even remotely joking about that. The art design of this show is distracting as hell, and took me out of the story more times than I can count. And the animation quality is no prize either... It’s one of the cheapest looking shows that Bones has ever produced, and if you know Bones, you know how big a claim that is.
In spite of this, Shiki is a very strong anime title that has a lot to offer you... It’s bold, thought provoking, and without a single hint of pretense. It succeeds at exploring ideas and concepts that cause other shows to flop face down onto the floor, and if you’re looking for a very broad hint at what these ideas are, one of those floppers is my old arch-nemesis Blood C. Unfortunately, with an irritating first episode and a constant assault of distracting and sometimes even inappropriate eyesores, you have to put up with a lot of abuse to appreciate this show, so I really can’t see it reaching the level of quality that it deserves to. It’s still a great show, and I strongly recommend checking it out, but I can’t give it any higher than a 7/10. read more
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